Feed Your Inner Analyst

I once had a conversation with a friend where we were discussing a movie that we'd both liked (the Matrix), but she liked it much better than I did. I really loved elements of the scenery and the premise, but there were glaring plot holes and inconsistencies that pulled me out of the story.

My friend got really annoyed and ranted, "Can't you watch the movie without analyzing it to death, and just have fun?"

There was this awkward silence, and then I laughed and said, "But analyzing it to death is fun for me!"

As a writer and photographer, it's always been really hard to turn off the editor in my brain while I'm reading a book or watching a movie. I fought that tendency for a while, until I realized that it's a really good skill to have. Even while I'm caught up in the story, there's a little Hermes (from Futurama) inside me filing away all the things that worked (and didn't work) for future reference:

And now I've found a writing book that really taps into that habit: Screenwriting Tricks For Authors (and Screenwriters!)by Alexandra Sokoloff

It's full of great tips on crafting characters, plot, etc, and includes fun exercises. You know, my kind of fun, like making a list of your favorite ten antagonists in books or films (she uses films as examples just as often as she uses books), and then thinking about what made you connect to those characters. Not only does it help you find instances where antagonists are done well, it gives you insights into why you might be writing the antagonists that you've put into your stories.

She says, "You need to create your list, and break those stories down to see why they have such an impact on you - because that's the kind of impact that you want to have on your readers. . .there will also always be a few stories on your list that have nothing to do with your dominant genre, some complete surprises, and those wild cards are sometimes the most useful for you to analyze structurally. Always trust something that pops into your head as belonging on your list. The list tells you who you are as a writer. What you are really listing are your secret thematic preferences. You can learn volumes from these lists if you are willing to go deep."

So if you're willing to go deep, check out her book, and its companion, Writing Love. They're on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in ebook form for only $2.99.


Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for the info. This is the second screenwriter book I've come across. And Hooked by Les Edgerton references movies for good examples. I think there's a lot to be learned from film/theatre that we can apply to writing novels.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Yes, I got Hooked when it was free on the Kindle (it might still be free, haven't checked recently) and that's a good one too.

Peggy Eddleman said...

The book sounds fabulous!! It's really hard to watch movies without filing away what worked and what didn't! I totally agree that it's a good thing. It also REALLY makes me appreciate a movie that is so great, I forget to file. ;)

Kris Atkins said...

I am such an analyst! I was ALWAYS try to figure out the end of the movie/book/tv episode, often without even trying. I once told a friend I did that, and she said she liked to be surprised, and I thought, "It's not like I'm trying not to be surprised, but I can't stop my brain." I'm so glad others understand that.
And that book sounds fantastic. I'm going to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

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